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September 9, 2015

Rise of robotics leaves finance cold

Financial services are failing to see the value of automation for anything other than as an aide.

By James Nunns

Robotics is coming to automate those time consuming manual jobs, but does the finance sector see any benefits in adopting?

The potential benefits of robotics in finances are clear, with advocates claiming that the technology could potentially reduce future costs by 50%, but there is much trepidation among CFOs.

Jamie Lyon, head of corporate sector, ACCA, said: "There needs to be far more clarity around the proposition for finance beyond headcount reduction. Yes, the numbers seem appealing, but finance directors are unclear about the hard benefits of robotics over and above its cost-efficiency when compared to employees."

According to a report from the ACCA, the relatively poor penetration of robotics into finance may be due to the approach taken when selling the technology.

Deborah Kops, co-author and managing principal of Sourcing Change, said: "When you build a value proposition for robotics in finance, you have to remember that this is not a product sale. You are selling a whole new way of working and it must be approached in this manner.

"Don’t price the software as a lower cost alternative to employees. Serve up a cost proposition that demonstrates the cost-benefit against the total cost of ownership.

"Resist the urge to over-scope or over-price. There is a tendency to wave robotics in front of budget holders like a shiny new toy but changing an entire way of working takes time. Be willing to start small and scale up.

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"Finance leaders are always seeking better practices. If robotics is going to make the kind of inroads into the finance function that many believe they should, the value proposition needs to be around domain-rich, transformative solutions."

Some of the problem also comes from a lack of proof sources and it being seen by many as an aide or a peak load tool, rather than something that is necessary to all finance functions.

John Campbell, "We wonder how robotics could help during tough reporting periods, where time pressures are high, people get tired, and as a result the quality of work drops.

"So robotics may help at specific times, but not be embedded in the day to day operations. I see a way to leverage it, but I suspect nobody’s going to want to bring it in as a main solution."

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